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Why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Matters

Why is a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce so important? And how can embedding it effectively within workplace culture help businesses remain competitive?

diverse group smiling and working in office setting

What is DEI? 

According to McKinsey, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are three closely linked values held by many organisations that are working to be supportive of different groups of individuals, including people of different races, ethnicities, religions, abilities, genders, and sexual orientations. In the UK, legislation has set minimum standards of acceptance for workplace diversity, but to truly capitalise on the benefits that these differences can bring, companies must go beyond legal compliance and fully embed DEI into their strategy and workplace practices.

Understanding diversity, equity and inclusion

While the terms are often used interchangeably, it is important to point out the distinctions:

  • Diversity can describe a wide variety of differences among people, including race, ethnicity, nationality, gender and sexual identity, disability, neurodiversity, religion or faith - even life experiences and others.
  • Equity is providing equal opportunities through a personalised approach, utilising unequal distribution of resources to “level the playing field.” Applying equity includes factoring in a variety of disparities within society that affects individuals to varying levels.
  • Inclusion details the desired outcome, ensuring everyone genuinely feels safe, welcome and included. Inclusion is a step past integration, where diverse individuals blend completely into the environment without a second thought.

Why is a DEI strategy so important? 

For businesses to remain competitive, an embedded DEI strategy is fundamental. In the IT industry, competition for talent is strong and demand continues to outstrip supply. Being able to attract and retain talent from the widest pool is key to remaining competitive.

Rebecca Clarke, Director of Employee Experience and DEI Strategy Lead for TEKsystems EMEA says,

“Candidates are more aware of inclusion and diversity than ever before and aren’t afraid to challenge workplace cultures where they perceive gaps. DEI can often be a deciding factor when selecting an employer as candidates want to work for organisations where they feel valued and included. Operating with DEI at the forefront of a people strategy is a fundamental part of attracting and retaining the best talent in the market and remaining competitive.”

When fully embedded, the business case for DEI is extensive, from talent attraction right down to the bottom line.

Talent attraction and retention

Simple maths would suggest that hiring from a larger talent pool provides greater options for companies to identify top talent. In contrast, minimising the size of this pool by not tapping into certain groups at the hiring stage could mean employers risk missing out on the right candidate for the job.

But the work doesn’t stop after a candidate becomes and employee. To retain the best people and to ensure they reach their potential, employees must feel valued and included within the organisation. As with any retention strategy, the physical working environment, culture, and workplace practices are all important factors to consider.

Company reputation

Where candidates have choice, ensuring that your business has a positive brand image as it relates to DEI is key. A study by PR Newswire cited the level of diversity in a company as an important deciding factor for 86% of candidates when looking for a new job. Reputation can be built through word of mouth, social media or company website, but also through employee review websites such as a Glassdoor where Diversity and Inclusion is explicitly listed as one of the core rating factors. How your organisation shows up matters.

Creativity, productivity and innovation

According to research by Josh Bersin , inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders in their market. With Harvard reporting that gender diverse firms are typically more productive. Historically, diversity research has focussed on factors such as gender and ethnicity, but the scope of diversity is wider than this, with recent studies focussing the explicit benefits of neurodiversity in the workplace. According to Lexxic, 15 - 20% of the population are neurodivergent and a link between neurodivergent characteristics and creative and innovative outputs is widely reported.

Customer relationships

Just as candidates continue to seek employment with diverse employers, businesses are increasingly looking to partner with diverse suppliers. Being able to demonstrate diverse work practices and culture that are aligned with the values and strategic direction of customers can support the quality of interactions and deepen the relationship with them.

Competitive advantage

According to McKinsey, ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to financially outperform their industry peers while Harvard Business Review reports that companies with greater diversity are 70% more likely to capture more markets.

The correlation between the extent of diversity within a business and its subsequent ability to win business could be a game-changer in a competitive IT market.

Bottom line profits

Alongside all of these benefits is perhaps the main one – the overall positive impact on the bottom line. In 2019, Forbes reported that companies with diverse leadership teams tend to produce 19% more revenue. Overall, diversity in thought results in better decision making. Diverse groups tend to consider a broader range of ideas and produce more possible solutions contributing more effectively to bottom line profits.

“Many diversity leaders are seizing the opportunity to advance the [DEI] agenda, while strengthening their sense of purpose and ability to attract customers and talent.” (McKinsey & Co) A DEI strategy that is embedded, supported, and led by senior leaders not only attracts and retains the best people and customers, but it can make for better business output, and contribute towards more innovative and creative solutions. Many other factors contribute towards a positive customer experience and profitable and productive business, but it's clear that DEI is one ingredient not to be missed from the recipe for success.